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Was Jim Tressel Overrated?

Urban's early returns are so promising that they even raise questions about what could've been.
Urban's early returns are so promising that they even raise questions about what could've been.

Who would you rather have coaching Ohio State football this year: Jim Tressel or Urban Meyer?

I'd take Urban Meyer, and I don't even have to ponder that question extensively. While it might seem blasphemous to suggest The Vest wasn't the greatest, I think most Buckeyes fans would agree, for all his success and as much as we cherish him, how many people in full honesty wouldn't have had but one name at the top of their celebrity coach cheat list? Urban Meyer has yet to coach a game, but it already appears he is the man to wake Ohio State football, a sleeping national super power which has been mostly somnambulant on the highest of stages since that fateful night in Arizona in January 2002.

Tressel dominated the Big Ten, and thoroughly vivisected that hipster collective of clowns tucked away in Satan's Mitten, but how much national glory was left on the table after Tressel-led teams gagged on teams with equal (and sometimes less) talent?

Maybe it's because Urban Meyer's team eviscerated one of Tressel's most talented teams in 2007, but I fully expect Meyer to not only replicate Tressel's success in the B1G, but also re-establish Ohio State as a true national power.

For me, it started with the hiring of Mickey Mariotti as Strength and Conditioning coach. 11W's Kyle Rowland has noted in only one year, players AT EVERY SINGLE POSITION have transformed their bodies. I can understand if that's the case for a handful of players -- but c'mon, THE ENTIRE TEAM? Granted, I'm just the guy sitting cross-legged on his girlfriend's bed in nothing but his boxer-briefs while typing words into the Interwebs, but it would seem to me health, nutrition, and training are a pretty big deal in 21st century collegiate football.

So why am I just now reading stories about Sarah Wick, a new dietician whom players love and rave about? Am I supposed to believe Jim Tressel couldn't have snapped and hired a similar person for his program?

Then there's the attitude and approach with the media. Look, I love Tressel the Saintly Patriarch Figure, but jiminy crickets, ol' dude used to act like he was sitting on a pile of state secrets during the height of the Cold War. (Like... Jim, it's no secret what your teams were going to go out there and try to do. They snapped on one and your mobile quarterbacks didn't know how to read opposing defenses.)

It's refreshing to be able to watch interviews with all members of this coaching staff and actually glean bits of personality from them. I've never met Kerry Coombs, but I like the idea of knowing he'd wear my testicles as a necklace if I ever bungled something during a game. I like Tim Hinton's Papa Bear swag. I like Tom Herman's obvious reservoir of football knowledge. I like Mark Pantoni's over-enthusiasm for everything. Zach Smith can use a Twitter hashtag properly, and Vrabro could probably crush a thousand beer cans on his forehead. This is all without mentioning Urban Meyer's soft-spoken, big-girthed persona, and his ability to trick ESPN into airing a series of 30-minute, nationally televised propaganda videos.

Then there's recruiting. I don't really follow recruiting, but it's a lot harder not to with Urban Meyer at the helm. And unlike people who have to travel the country, watch choppy internet feeds, and text message teenagers, I can tell the potential of an incoming freshman or recruit by his name alone. Adolphus Washington? There was never a chance that kid wasn't built to steam-roll doughy white kids from Iowa.

JT Barrett, a dual threat quarterback from Texas? Sounds a lot better to me than "Justin Zwick, pocket statue from Orville, Ohio." (And no, Bill Zwick, don't think I've forgotten about the time you bilked 60k/year out of Marion's City Schools by doing nothing as Superintendent merely so you could be closer to your son's underwhelming performances. And while we're on this tangent with the Zwick family: No Justin, I have not forgiven you for the Texas debacle in 2005.)

My point is, Urban pursues the elite talent, and better yet, he knows how to cultivate it. Tressel's recruiting crown was 2008: Terrelle Pryor, Mike Brewster, Etienne Sabino, J.B. Shugarts, DeVier Posey, and Mike Adams. For those scoring at home, that's 30 stars out of a possible 30 stars.

And Jim Tressel really didn't do anything with it beside bully a perennially average Big Ten. Mike Brewster didn't even get drafted. J.B. Shugarts couldn't ever even handle that one count. The players share a lot of the blame, but whose job is it to put the best players on the field and prepare them? And how well prepared were they when, sans Tressel and Pryor last year, they curled up in a ball and lost 7 of 13 games?

Of course, Jim Tressel might still be the coach if he only handled the Terrelle Pryor situation better. Blame Pryor all you want, but you can't tell me nobody at the Woody Hayes Center didn't realize he was pulling up in a different leaser every month and a half. You can't baby sit everybody, but isn't there a whole department in athletics whose job is it to monitor these players, especially ones that held nationally televised decision ceremonies almost two months later than the rest of their peers? You know, the people who are actually getting compensated in true monetary value to do their jobs?

And while Urban has yet to coach a game for Ohio State, I bet none of Urban's teams ever get a mudhole stomped in their ass like Tressel's 2008 team at USC did. Tressel played not to lose, and in college football -- where elite teams only play two, maybe three equally talented opponents a year -- that's a recipe to win you a lot of games, but it's not a recipe that will win national champions. Not anymore. And with the Big Ten as mired in mediocrity as it is at football, that's what the game is about at Ohio State now. (Just wait 'til Ohio State burns Michigan in a pyre in the middle of the Shoe later this year.)

Tressel was loyal to a fault, to his style of play, to his lethargic assistants and to elder players like J.B. Shugarts. Urban's only flaw is that he may sometimes care too much.

For me, it's not even close. Tressel the man will always have a special spot in my heart, but it's time for the prodigal son to restore Ohio State to its rightful place atop the snakepit of college football.